Tag Archives: hot on the trail

Status Update – Why Series End

Mar 01, 2017

In my writing career so far, I have written eight different series (and a few odds and ends). Of those series, I only have two “active” right now (The Brides of Paradise Ranch and Nerds of Paradise). Four of those series are definitely done (The Noble Hearts, Montana Romance, Hot on the Trail, and Culpepper Cowboys). And the other two (Second Chances and Grace’s Moon)? Ugh, that’s where my heart and my head get into serious debates.

But first things first….

Why does an author choose to end a series? If you’re a reader, it might be heartbreaking to say goodbye to your favorite characters and a world you’ve fallen in love with. The same is true for the author too, but sometimes things have to end. Like with my Noble Hearts series. That decision was easy, because I realized Medieval Romance wasn’t the way I wanted to go. Or with Montana Romance, I felt like I’d told all the stories I needed to tell in that world and wanted to move on to other things. Hot on the Trail was a slightly different story, because I just got burnt out of writing about the Oregon Trail. I mean, there are only so many stories you can tell about people headed west in wagons. But you’ll notice, I sort of just rolled that world into Paradise Ranch, so it doesn’t really end, it just shifts.

Incidentally, I’m thinking that later this year, I might spin-off Paradise Ranch into a 3-5 novella series about the girls that Bonnie has rescued, educated, and helped to find a new life. And thanks to Elspeth and Gunn, those lives are as servants in British households…which would be a great transition from my historical westerns to the British Victorian stories I really want to start writing. It’s all organic, and everything fits together!

But I digress. For me, the Culpepper Cowboys books ended because the well went completely dry for those books. I got to the point where I was just blank. I had no new ideas for the length, tone, and atmosphere of that world. But that sort of rolled into Nerds of Paradise, which are longer, deeper, more complex, and deal with more serious issues. So if that’s the case for those books, what about Second Chances, my contemporary series set in Maine?

This is where I start to cringe on an emotional level. Because I LOVE those Maine books. I love Maine! And I’m very proud of what is now a trilogy. I have people asking me if I’m going to write more in that series all the time. And I hate to say it, but the farther away I get from the last one of those that I published, the less likely I am to continue the series. Because the thing about writers is that their writing brains are not static. I am constantly coming up with new ideas, new worlds, and new characters. Which is a wonderful thing! But the consequence is that other things can be left behind because there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Also, when other series and types of books start to pick up in sales, it’s really hard to forego that income to write something that will need a bigger marketing push. We gotta eat!

And finally… Grace’s Moon. *epic sigh* So, so few people have read my Sci-Fi books or even know they exist. The thing is, I love that genre. I love the books that I’ve already published in that series, and I love the ones that are still floating around in my head. And I keep saying that someday I AM going to come back to that series and write more. Unlike Second Chances, I’m unwilling to say, willingly or grudgingly, that I’m done with Grace. Because I have generation after generation of those characters already planned out. In my mind, that world is epic! Someday I’ll get back to it. Someday!

Now Available – Trail of Passion Audiobook

Feb 16, 2017

Hey guys, guess what? Trail of Passion is now available as an audiobook! Yes, you too can listen to the amazing Dawnya Clarine reading all about Lucy Haskell and Gideon Faraday’s journey out to Wyoming on the Oregon Trail!

Better still, I have a limited amount of free audiobook codes from Audible! So the first ten people who comment on this post with their email address will get to listen for free! Let me know if you’d like me to hide the comment with your address after you leave it, and I’ll take care of that for you. 😉

Lucy Haskell has a passion for danger and isn’t afraid to let everyone know it. The Oregon Trail is the perfect way for her to travel home to her father’s ranch in Wyoming, and to meet new friends and talk their ears off along the way. But Lucy’s talking and risk-taking masks a darker fear—that no one could possibly love or even like a woman as unconventional as her.

All that changes when Gideon Faraday stumbles into her life…

Dr. Gideon Faraday is a scientist: intelligent, handsome, reserved, soft-spoken… and a murderer. He’s heading west to atone for the lives he’s taken, and the last thing he wants is to make friends on the trail or to fall in love. But from the moment he sees bubbly, daring, beautiful, fearless Lucy, he’s smitten.

Gideon and Lucy can’t fight the passion that pulls them together—with scandalous consequences—but when a mysterious stranger joins their wagon train and Gideon’s life is in jeopardy, it will take all the daring Lucy possesses to keep Gideon alive.

Danger is just the beginning…

PLEASE BE ADVISED: Steam Level – Very Hot

Release Day! – Trail of Chances: Trail’s End

Jun 10, 2016

At last! Pete Evans, Josephine Lewis and the gang have finally reached the end of the trail! So here we are with release day for Trail of Chances: Trail’s End, the final book of the Hot on the Trail series. This is the book that I had no idea how to write, but you guys kept on my case and kept asking for it. That gave me the inspirational boost to get it done. So thank you so much! You’re the best! I hope you enjoy it. Enjoy a little bit of chapter one right here to start out! And don’t forget, you can pick up your copy for just 99 cents, but only through this weekend!

TrailofChancesTrailsEnd_small

Oregon City, Oregon Territory – 1865

 

“Well, there it is, Miss Josephine. The end of the trail.” Pete Evans pointed to a wide yard filled with wagons and people. Merchant booths and tents filled the area in front of the heart of the settlement on the other side of the last hill of the Oregon Trail. Oregon City at last.

“Thank merciful God in heaven above,” Josephine Lewis sighed, pressing a hand to her heart.

After three months, several storms, far too many deaths, one heart-wrenching parting of the ways, and more adventure than she’d ever bargained for in her life, her journey was done.

And in some ways, with forty years of life and the entire rest of the country behind her, she had a feeling her journey was only just beginning.

“Are we there? Did we make it?” Young Freddy Chance scrambled down from the back of the wagon, helping his smaller sister, Muriel, as he went.

“Yep, that’s it.” Pete pointed toward the settlement again. He swept his hat from his head to run a hand through his silver-grey hair.

“Where’s the ocean?” Libby Chance asked, hurrying up to join her younger siblings. Libby had turned eighteen on the trail, and in spite of her burst of enthusiasm, looked more like a woman than a child now.

“The ocean heard you were coming and it ran screaming.” Luke teased his sister, tugging on the long braid down Libby’s back.

“Ow! You pig.” Libby turned to punch Luke’s arm.

“Oink, oink!” Luke laughed.

Josephine rolled her eyes. All four of the Chance children had grown restless and irritable on the last leg of the journey. Maybe it was all the energy they hadn’t been able to expend in leisurely pursuits for the last few months, since starting west with a group of other orphans. Or maybe it was the uncomfortable question that hung over all of their heads now that they had reached Oregon City.

What happened to the four Chance children now that the journey was over?

“We’re still a fair ways from the ocean,” Pete stepped in to answer Libby’s question, fitting his hat back on his head. “But if you keep following the river for a day or so, you’ll get to your ocean eventually.”

“Unless it retreats once it hears you’re coming,” Luke added under his breath.

Libby huffed and balled her hands into fists. Freddy and Muriel snorted with amusement.

“Luke Chance, please stop tormenting your sister,” Josephine scolded. “I swear, you’ll give me more grey hairs than I already have.”

The minor feud was eclipsed as the Jacksons, one of the families they had been traveling with, rode past with their wagon.

“I bet you’ll be glad to finally be rid of that lot,” Beulah Jackson snorted, shaking her head.

Cold anger formed a knot in Josephine’s gut. “I—”

“You’re a mite too long in the tooth to be saddled with that kind of responsibility anyhow,” Beulah went on.

“Children like that need a younger hand,” her husband, Jim, agreed. “Someone with the energy to teach them manners.”

Josephine’s cold stomach turned over. She glanced to the children. Freddy and Muriel were busy chasing a puppy that had run close to the wagon. Luke and Libby had heard the comment though and looked decidedly put out.

“Thanks for all your help, Pete.” Jim slapped Pete on the back as he passed, not giving Josephine time to reply. “I expect you’ll kick back and enjoy a quiet retirement now, but I sure am glad you dragged your old bones across the frontier for this one last trip. We couldn’t have made it without you.”

“You take care, Jim.” Pete waved after him.

The Jacksons walked on, leaving Josephine speechless. She turned to Pete to see what he thought of the nasty set of comments. Long in the tooth? Old bones? Indeed! But Pete merely shrugged and walked back to check on the wagon.

Josephine sighed. Yes, that was probably the best thing to do. Ignore unhelpful negativity and unkind remarks. She turned her attention back to the cluster of buildings and wagons and people at the edge of the larger settlement.

“Goodness gracious me.” She let out a breath and clasped her hand to her chest. “It’s been so long since we were around any significant number of people that that budding new town looks like a veritable city.”

“There must be a hundred people there at least,” Muriel added, coming up to Josephine’s side to take her hand.

Josephine chuckled and hugged Muriel closer. There were far more than a hundred people in Oregon City. Tens of thousands of people, if not more, had made the same journey they’d just finished in the last fifteen years, and while not everyone stayed put at trail’s end, a good many had set up shop and planted roots in the burgeoning little town nestled between two rivers. All that hope and industry and planning for the future settled cozily in her heart, no matter how weathered it was. There was something comforting about real chimneys with smoke coming out of them, livestock grazing in the fields, and people going about everyday businesses without a care for how soon they would have to pick up and move on.

“I tell you,” she said to Pete and the children with a satisfied sigh. “That sight right there is enough to make me feel as though we’ve reached a new world.”

“It’s certainly a new world for me,” Pete muttered, striding back to her side, hands thrust in his pockets.

Josephine’s brow rose. It rose even more when she twisted to find Pete watching her, his face pink with…was that bashfulness? Her lips twitched into a grin. “What’s that supposed to mean, Peter Evans?”

“Nothing.” Pete shrugged, cleared his throat, and marched forward. “There will be all sorts of merchants and land agents down in that crush,” he told her, looking around to make sure anyone else listening knew the advice was free for all. “They’ll be willing to buy your wagons and oxen and anything else you brought for the journey but don’t need anymore. But careful, some of them are shysters who will take everything you’ve got and then some.”

More families from the back of the long line of wagons were rolling up around them or heading down into the shallow valley where trading was going on.

“You got anyone down there that you trust in particular?” Graham Tremaine asked as he and Estelle and little Tim rolled to a stop beside them.

A few feet beyond Graham, Charlie and Olivia Garrett stopped their wagon and looked on with interest.

Pete rubbed the back of his neck and squinted into the tangle of merchants and tradesmen. He studied them for a moment, then raised his hand to point at a portly man in a faded blue jacket. “That’s Russ Ryan. He’s a fair dealer when it comes to wagons. And Vincent Gordon down there is one of the more honest men that will take other goods off your hand that you don’t need anymore.” He turned back to the group. “If you were sticking around, I would recommend Paul Karlin to help you find and claim a patch of land to make your own, but you all have other plans, right?”

“We’re going to take Gideon and Lucy up on their offer of visiting the Haskell ranch in Wyoming with a view to settle,” Graham confirmed. Their friends, Gideon and Lucy Faraday, had parted ways with the wagon train at Ft. Bridger and headed out to Lucy’s father’s ranch to settle.

“And we’ve got business to take care of in San Francisco before we decide,” Charlie added, smiling at Olivia.

Pete nodded, then turned slowly back to Josephine. “And you, Miss Josephine. Do you know what you’ll do next?”

A completely unexpected lump formed in Josephine’s throat. Pete’s question wasn’t a difficult one. She knew the answer. But the unspoken uncertainty in Pete’s eyes, the wistful way Muriel stopped playing with the puppy and glanced up at her, the way Libby bit her lip…all of it made Josephine’s reply harder than she could have imagined.

“My…my niece, Callie, is waiting for me in Denver City. I’m supposed to move in with her and her new husband, John. John runs a store in Denver City, you know. I’m told my life there will be quite comfortable. Suitable for a woman of my years.”

There was no reason she should be justifying the life that awaited her—or bringing her age into the discussion—but she couldn’t help herself.

Pete nodded. “Well, you’re not going to need a wagon in Denver City, that’s for sure.” He took a few steps toward the edge of the town, almost as if she’d offended him.

Josephine’s heart dragged after him. Her arm twitched, and she almost reached pleadingly after him before reminding herself that it was unseemly to go chasing after a man of Pete’s standing like a girl trying to snag her first beau.

 

Trail of Chances is available exclusively at Amazon for just 99 cents this weekend only, and for Kindle Unlimited. Grab it here today!

Weekend Excerpt – Trail of Chances: Trail’s End

Jun 03, 2016

It’s a wee bit early for the weekend, but I didn’t think you’d mind. Especially since I’m sharing an excerpt from the book that I wasn’t going to write! But why did I write it, you ask? Because you guys wanted me to. I thought I had told all that needed to be told about Pete and Josephine’s story, until I realized that there was a whole bunch that went into them actually deciding to get together. So here’s a little snipped of the final Hot on the Trail book, Trail of Chances: Trail’s End, coming June 10th!

TrailofChancesTrailsEnd_small

“You’re sure you’ll be all right here?” he asked, his voice unusually gruff.

“Yes,” Josephine said hesitantly. “I suppose so.” She looked to Myrtle. Myrtle still wore her sly grin.

Pete rubbed his chin. “If Luke causes any trouble, you let me know. That boy’s close enough to being a man that he gets ideas in his head, but he’s not close enough to handle the responsibilities that come along with those ideas.”

“I know.” Josephine nodded pointedly to Myrtle to let her know Pete spoke the truth and Luke should be watched with both eyes.

“And Libby seems a bit moony after meeting that Teddy Simms earlier,” Pete went on.

“Teddy Simms?” Myrtle brightened. “He’s a fine young man with good prospects.” She turned to study Libby, who had taken a seat on a stump at the corner of the property and was now plucking the petals off of a wildflower with a far-away smile. “And that young lady of yours looks of an age to notice and appreciate a fine young man.”

“That’s what I’m worried about,” Pete grumbled. He rolled his shoulders, then glanced to the younger children on the swing. “That lot has more energy than a pack of prairie dogs in the sun.”

“We have several other children and their families boarding here at the moment,” Myrtle told him. “They won’t lack for playmates or adults with the energy to keep up with them.”

Josephine’s heart beat with bittersweet pride at the concerns Pete was expressing. He may have fancied himself a tough old dog, but he had a kind, fatherly heart under it all. It was a mystery why the man had never taken a wife and had children of his own.

“Stop your fussing, Pete,” Myrtle laughed. “A body would think you were ready to swoop in and adopt this lot yourself, what with the way you’re going on.”

Pete’s back was stiff in an instant. “I’m too old to start a family.” He snapped a sideways glance at Josephine.

“Well, don’t look at me.” Josephine was determined to call him out. “I’m far past the family age myself.”

“You’re still younger than all that,” Pete insisted.

“Then so are you.”

“I—” Pete thought better of whatever argument he was going to make. His shoulders loosened, and he tugged at the bottom of his vest. “I’m going to be late for supper at the hotel if I don’t get a move on.”

Without another word, he turned and marched away. Josephine watched his retreating back, mouth opened in scolding indignation. And yet, she couldn’t think of anything to call after him.

To top it off, Myrtle clamped a hand to her mouth. That did nothing to hide her smile. But all she said was, “Well, well.”

 

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for June 10th! =D

My Epic Road Trip – Part One

May 07, 2016

Utah MountainsSo anyone who has been following me on Facebook knows that one month ago today, I set out from my cozy little suburban Philadelphia home and began an epic journey. It was a bucket-list journey, something I’ve always, always wanted to do. This was the time. The RT Booklovers Convention was in Las Vegas, NV this year, as a full-time writer, I had the time and the means, so I thought “I’m gonna drive to Las Vegas!”

Well, let me tell you, this epic road trip was worth every second. I learned so much about this country, about the vastness of its landscape and the huge, huge differences between its regions and people. I visited 21 states, 12 of them I’d never been to before, saw a whole bunch of national landmarks, met up with a dozen or more friends I haven’t seen in ages or that I’d never met outside of the internet, and fell in love with a couple of locations that I never would have guessed would tickle my fancy. In the process, I also had a few epiphanies about different parts of this country, and about our nation as a whole.

So for the next few blog posts, I’m going to talk about what I saw and what I thought…

Crossing the Familiar

Pennsylvania: Okay, well, I’m from PA, and I’m also incredibly biased in favor of my state. I always tell people that I’m not particularly patriotic, but I’m incredibly state-riotic! So this wasn’t news to me, but for those who don’t know Pennsylvania, we’ve got it all. Seriously. Everything. I live in a temperate area filled with rolling hills, mass quantities of deciduous trees and forests, more historic sites than you can shake a stick at, and Philadelphia, the fifth largest city in the US. On the other side of the state is those other guys, Pittsburgh (huge Philly/Pittsburgh rivalry going on there), some more mountainy hills, coal and natural gas, more forests, and a super nice guy that I went to high school with and used to date. In the middle is farmland, farmland, and more farmland. And mountains. We call that area Pennsyltucky. Oh, and Lancaster County. Man, I love Pennsylvania!

Iconic Midwest landmark! Plus my Grandma, me, and my Grandma's helper.

Iconic Midwest landmark! Plus my Grandma, me, and my Grandma’s helper.

The Midwest – Ohio, Indiana, Illinois: I was born in southwestern Ohio, in a suburb of Cincinnati. My Grandma still lives there, and I stayed my first night with her. I can’t explain it, but every time I drive through Ohio, I’m struck by how different it feels from Pennsylvania. That’s right, it feels different. It’s much flatter, for one, especially on the western side. Still lots of farms, though. But I have to say—and I hope I’m not offending anyone by saying it—the entire Midwest has a sort of half-panicked feeling to me. Like it’s holding its breath, waiting to see what happens next and not entirely convinced it’s going to be good.

Part of my theory of what might be the root cause of that feeling of desperation is the history of the region. Way, way back in the day, the Midwest was full of excitement and promise. It was the first place that settlers from the brand-spanking new United States picked up and moved to in search of a better life. And they found it! The fertile farmland of the Midwest quickly caused the area to be one of the most prosperous outside of the original thirteen colonies. By the 1840s, Cincinnati was the sixth largest city in the United States. The many rivers and canals that passed through the city and on along the Ohio River to the Mississippi fed that economy. The good times continued into the 20th century, when the Midwest became a hub for industry. My Grandma is a wealth of stories of the middle of the 20th century, when factories and businesses thrived and life was good. Then it all went away. Jobs went overseas, businesses closed, people were laid off and couldn’t find other work. Many people left, but many more couldn’t afford to.

I may be wrong, but the feeling I got from the Midwest was that people there are holding their breath. They’ve been through the wringer in the last two generations, and they’re waiting for things to renew. And there was a lot of potential for renewal in all the things I saw. I sort of considered St. Louis to be the end of the Midwest feeling, and there is definitely a buzz around that city. Oh, and the Gateway Arch (which I’ve always wanted to see) is a lot bigger than I thought it was! If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is. I think the Midwest is due for a big, positive change.

Moving into the Unfamiliar

StLouis ArchMissouri: The state of Missouri west of St. Louis was my first big surprise. It was the first state I arrived at that I’d never been to before. And you know what? It’s kind of awesome! Now, that may be because it rained all through the Midwest, but the sun came out when I crossed the Mississippi, and all the redbuds were in bloom. I didn’t realize Missouri was so hilly and woody! And I like me some hills and trees. But it wasn’t just the beauty of the state. It had a sort of positivity about it that the Midwest didn’t. I wonder if that has to do with the history of the economy in the state. I get the impression that, unlike Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, Missouri didn’t have the same industrial dependence throughout the 20th century. Just a theory.

Kansas City: Then I reached Kansas City, and my good friend Laura L. Stapleton’s house. We stayed up way too late talking, then the next day we “did” Kansas City. Well, not the city proper. We went to the Three Trails Museum in Independence, MO. I definitely had the impression that if I was an early settler about to make my journey to the frontier on the Oregon Trail, I would have left that starting point full of excitement and energy, ready to run forward to my new life.

Um, as you’ll see later, I don’t think that feeling would have lasted.

Me and author Laura L. Stapleton in Independence, MO, ready to head West on the Oregon Trail!

Me and author Laura L. Stapleton in Independence, MO, ready to head West on the Oregon Trail!

A Token Trek Through Kansas and Iowa, and Eastern Nebraska: So because I wanted to hit as many states as possible, Laura and her husband, Dirk, took me across the Missouri River to stand in Kansas. Of course, in the process I got a nice picture of Susan B. Anthony’s house, as well as a peek at Leavenworth Prison. My plan was to stay in Lincoln, Nebraska that night, and the road to get there took me through Iowa for about half an hour. But I think I can infer what the rest of Kansas and the rest of Iowa must look like from the states around them. Farmland, I’m guessing. Lots of it.

Because almost all of eastern Nebraska was farmland. Lots and lots of flat, flat farmland! I loved Lincoln, though, and I definitely want to go back there. But what struck me as I drove across the state was how positive the feeling was, in spite of there not being a lot of stuff there. I stopped at Ft. Kearny historical site—because, I mean, I mention it several times in my Hot on the Trail series, and I had to take a look at what I’d imagined—but even more than what remains of the fort, it was the vastness of the landscape that really struck me. I thought to myself, there’s nothing in eastern Nebraska.

Little did I know, I was about to redefine “nothing there.”

Lots of Nebraska. Lots of flat farmland.

Lots of Nebraska. Lots of flat farmland.

Anyhow, it was as I drove through Nebraska along the Platte River—just like my characters in the Hot on the Trail series—that I began to have my doubts. I’m pretty sure if I had been a pioneer on the Oregon Trail, about halfway through Nebraska I would have been thinking “Dude, this is the worst idea in the history of ideas!” The flatness and emptiness of what is now Nebraska as it must have existed then would have been overwhelming! It was, as several of the pioneers’ journals tell us.

But then I got to western Nebraska and Wyoming. I’ll save that for next time, though….

Harry Truman had a really sweet house!

Harry Truman had a really sweet house!